GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria firefighters rescued three local Germans from an off-post family house fire on Thursday, Jan. 20, along Alte Amberger Strasse, Grafenwoehr.
It was a shocking surprise for the residents of a multi-story house in Grafenwoehr, when massive amounts of smoke flooded the apartments at around 7:45 a.m. One person from one household escaped via the regular stairs, while three people from another household remained trapped after escaping to the second-story balcony.
Alexander Richter, who both works for the USAG Bavaria Fire Department and is the fire chief of the Grafenwoehr voluntary fire department, reacted quickly and requested additional support from the garrison fire department – through the Host Nation Emergency Dispatch Center – as soon as he received information that people were in danger. Within the immediate area, both the garrison fire department and the Eschenbach volunteer fire department own ladder trucks.
Even though this emergency occurred off-post, the proximity of the USAG Bavaria Fire Department allowed firefighters to respond immediately and make a quick deployment to the scene. So just minutes later, the garrison’s fire department arrived with the turntable aerial ladder truck and another fire truck to work hand-in-hand with the other host nation fire departments. While garrison firefighters took care to rescue the trapped residents, others put on respiratory protective devices to locate the source of fire and other possible residents.
According to Tobias Zwicker, USAG Bavaria Assistant Fire Chief, the fire was caused at the heating system in the basement; moreover, host nation firefighters quickly neutralized it. Luckily it was determined that nobody else was in the smoke-filled house.
After all four residents and a police officer from the inspection unit in Eschenbach were examined by the emergency doctors for smoke inhalation, officials said they were unharmed. Werner Stopfer, head of the Eschenbach Police Station, estimate that damages totaled around 120,000 euros.
“Despite the uncertain and maybe risky situation at the beginning, this mission ended successfully and no one has been injured,” said Zwicker. “Training together – with the off-post volunteer fire departments – pays off in a situation like this.”
The USAG Bavaria Fire Department has official partnerships with multiple local fire departments neighboring installations in Grafenwoehr, Vilseck and Hohenfels.
“We train together, we work together and we fight together, on- and off-post,” said USAG Bavaria Fire Chief Josef Rodler. “The teamwork and relationship is excellent.”